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The curse of international tourism


Venice in Peril
John Julius Norwich Writer
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Ashley rang me up, as I say, in '69 or '70, and said, 'We are now... we've now realised that it's Venice, not Florence, that has to be helped. So we're founding a new organisation, which is to be called Venice in Peril, and will you be chairman?' And I said, 'No, of course, I won't, Ashley. You've got to be the chairman. You're the ex-ambassador. You're bilingual in Italian. You know all the ministers by their first names; you can go and bang the desk on, in their offices and things in a way I can't possibly do. You've got all the clout; I've got none.' And he said, 'No, but Francis, his wife and I are going to live in Venice and oversee all the work that we're going to be doing. What we want is a fundraiser in London so I couldn't think of any more reasons to say no, so I said yes. I mean, I loved Venice anyway, and I obviously wanted to help all I could. And so we started Venice in Peril in 1970, and it's still going strong, I'm glad to say. Its work will never be over; there'll always be work to be done. And it's no good saying, oh, well, Venice is part of it; why don't the Italians do it? The Italians are totally crushed by the weight of their artistic heritage. I mean, every town and every village in Italy has got so much to be preserved, conserved, insured, I don't know, I mean, the list is endless, they can't do it all themselves. And, after all, it's we who go there for our holidays every year and enjoy them, so it's up to us to do our bit. And Venice in Peril actually has done an enormous amount, not as much as Save Venice Inc., the American opposite number, which obviously is much, much bigger and much richer and has done a lot more. But we've done about a dozen major monuments in Venice, starting with the Madonna dell'Orto, which was Tintoretto's parish church, and we not only restored the building, but we also restored all the Tintoretto pictures he left there, of which there are five. And we did the Porta della Carta, the main entrance into the Doge's Palace, and we did a lovely little church called San Nicolo dei Mendicoli, which very few people know. It's way out on the outside, but it's one of the oldest and loveliest churches in Venice. And a lot of other stuff, and... But, I mean, as I say, there will always be work to be done. And there are still several, I don't know how many, other international... I mean, not international, but other national organisations like ours that are still working on it. The Dutch have a very active one, I know, for example. Of course, the Dutch know more about flooding than anybody, so they've been very useful in other ways too.

John Julius Norwich (1929-2018) was an English popular historian, travel writer and television personality. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, at Eton, at the University of Strasbourg and on the lower deck of the Royal Navy before taking a degree in French and Russian at New College, Oxford. He then spent twelve years in H.M. Foreign Service, with posts at the Embassies in Belgrade and Beirut and at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. In 1964 he resigned to become a writer. He is the author of histories of Norman Sicily, the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire and, most recently, 'The Popes: A History'. He also wrote on architecture, music and the history plays of Shakespeare, and presented some thirty historical documentaries on BBC Television.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Venice, Ashley Clarke

Duration: 3 minutes, 16 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018